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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"



manner of Burial—Putrefaction is hastened in a body buried in a damp
marshy, clayey, soil, or in a shallow grave where the body will be exposed
SUns ant changes of temperature. It will also be hastened m the case of
a body buried without clothes or coffin in a porous soil impregnated with
organic matter. Putrefaction is, however, retarded, if a body is buried in
a dry sandy or gravelly soil on high ground, or in a grave deeper than six
feet and also if a body is weU covered with clothes and placed in a tightly
fitting coffin Lime and charcoal, when sprinkled on a body, do not hasten
or retard putrefaction, but act as deodorizers to some extent, as they have
the power of absorbing gases emanating during decomposition.

Internal Circumstances.—These are age, sex, condition of the body, and

e.—The bodies of children putrefy more rapidly than those of young
adults. The bodies of old people do not decompose rapidly, probably owing
to a less amount of moisture.

Sex.—Sex has no influence on putrefaction, but the bodies of females
dying soon after child-birth decompose rapidly, especially if death has been
due to septicaemia.

Condition of the Body.—Fat and flabby bodies putrefy more quickly
than thin and emaciated ones. Those parts of the body which are the seats
of bruises, wounds or fractures, or which have been mutilated, decompose
very early.

Cause of Death.—The bodies of persons who have died from acute in-
fectious fevers and chronic diseases terminating in septicaemia or general
anasafca decompose more rapidly than those of healthy persons who have
died suddenly from accident or violence. Putrefaction is hastened after
death occurring from asphyxia as in lightning, strangulation, and suffocation
by smoke, coal-gas, hydrogen sulphide or sewer gas and certain poisons, e.g.
hydrocyanic acid and opium. On the other hand, putrefaction is retarded
after death occurring from wasting diseases attended with emaciation and
anaemia. Certain poisons, such as arsenic and antimony, are commonly
believed to retard the putrefactive changes, but this is ,not true in cases of
acute poisoning. In chronic poisoning they are found to have a preserva-
tive effect on the body tissues, especially when administered in small,
repeated doses over a prolonged period. Death from chronic alcoholism
generally hastens putrefaction. In the case of strychnine poisoning putre-
faction is delayed, when death has occurred rapidly without much muscular
exhaustion, but it sets in early when the muscular irritability has been
greatly destroyed by convulsive fits occurring frequently during life.


Under certain conditions the progress of putrefaction in a deadloody is
checked^ and is replaced by the formation of adipocere, which is a waxy-
looking substance, having a greasy feel and a pure white or faint yellowish

Fig. 38.—The body of a child converted into adipocere.